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Humanities Essay A moment in time Published at cmaj.ca on May 29, 2009. Space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-118 mission was the 22nd shuttle flight to the Interna- tional Space Station. During the 12-day mis- sion in August 2007, the crew, including Canadian physician Dave Williams, contin- ued construction on the space station. NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org R ight foot first. My strategy for getting into the foot restraint on the end of the space station’s ro- botic arm, Canadarm2, always begins with my right foot. I feel my toes slide under the restraint and turn my heel out- wards, locking the boot in place. The rest is easy. I slide my left foot in, release the Years ago, in another millennium, dur- Scorch’s call brings me back to the task handrails on the exterior of the space sta- ing my medical studies at McGill Univer- at hand. As I ease toward the shuttle, the tion, lean back and get ready for the ride sity in Montréal, Quebec, I read poet Ted sound of my breathing blends with the of a lifetime. Rosenthal’s book, How Could I Not Be quiet hum of the suit’s fan. The signifi- Two hours have elapsed in the second Among You?1 chronicling his emotional cance of our mission is dwarfed by the spacewalk of our flight. Rick Mastrac- response to the terminal phases of magnitude of infinite space and cosmic chio and I are removing and replacing a leukemia. For Rosenthal, the final phases time. It is an extremely humbling expe- malfunctioning gyroscope, 1 of 4 aboard of death provided profound insights. His rience, yet I feel satisfied with the real- the space station that are critical to main- value of living “in the moment,” capturing ization of the truth in Rosenthal’s words taining its orientation. forever the joy, wonder and beauty of that “whatever it is you have, you’ve al- Since lifting off from Kennedy Space each event in our lives has guided me for ready got. Right there. And it makes that Center 4 days ago the Endeavour has or- 3 decades. Standing alone on the slowly moment an eternity.” In one brief eter- bited the earth more than 50 times to ren- moving arm, suspended in space, I finally nity, I felt embraced in the 4.5 billion– dezvous and dock with the space station. understood the significance of his words. year history of our planet. Our crew of 7 trained for 2 years for this Turning slowly to my right, I look As the moon emerges above the port mission; each of our 4 spacewalks re- over the gleaming white shuttle into the truss of the space station, the path to the quires precision choreography between infinite void of space. There is a black- lunar surface and on to Mars beckons, the spacewalkers and the crew inside op- ness no earthly experience has prepared challenging future generations of space
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